IDIOT Syndrome and your Money Management

IDIOT Syndrome & Money Management

Recently, I happened to learn a term that was being used mainly in the medicine field called IDIOT Syndrome, also known as Cyberchondria. The acronym IDIOT Stands for “Internet Derived information Obstructing Treatment”

IDIOT syndrome is when people blindly trust all the medical information available online and stop their treatment abruptly without consulting their doctor. The term speaks for itself. When people treat information available on the internet as a substitute for professional advice, they call trouble for themselves.

No doubt, the Internet is a big source of information. You will find any and everything there, but how to use that information for your benefit or to filter the information and convert it into knowledge, is what only a professional can do.

It’s not only doctors who face trouble with their patients, who stop their treatment or don’t follow it completely due to the half-baked knowledge gained from the internet, even Financial Planners or I should say every professional who is into advisory/consultancy face this issue of IDIOT Syndrome. Rather than consulting a professional , people these days feel it is convenient to surf the information on the internet and consider it as Advice/Prescription. 

The Internet and Social media is full of Marketing pitches, which also include, sharing FREE information, and seeking the limited attention of the readers. All this has helped in some ways but multiplied the challenges in different ways. Now there is an additional job for professionals is to manage the behavior of the clients which keep changing after reading twitter discussions, watching instagram reels and participating in the Facebook groups. Whatsapp is bombarded with a lot of fake and unreliable information on a daily basis which people consider to be true.

It’s completely fine if you are reading to gain information, so you may understand the problem better or to equip yourself with good questions to ask your Planner but the problem increases when you act on that information, with no professional guidance.

I, as a Patient of yours’ act like this sometimes, and you as a client of mine is also not different. With the kind of information available online, so many FREE tools and fintech applications there, you may think that Personal Finance Management is not as complex as Medical Treatment. Which is not true. There are many complex areas, products, that may tempt anyone to enter into, with the limited information they get over the internet (especially in the buoyant times), and which are enough to spoil their financial life. 

(Read: when & how doctors behave like their patients?)

Taking Loans for all big and small requirements, Trading in derivatives after seeing or even experiencing to have made money faster by investing less, ‘Investing’ in Insurance plans, Accumulating Real estate without even thinking of the future financial Requirements by having a holistic look at one’s finances, Ignoring Insurance coverage completely even when you see health issues and deaths happening around, Investing just to save taxes, not involving spouses in the financial decision making, etc. are some of the areas which are dangerous to your financial wellness.

(Also Read: Financial Planning tips for young Doctors)

Cause and Effect of IDIOT syndrome in Money management:

So why do people do that? Why do they look out for information on the internet, before or after, or even without consulting with a professional? Below are the probable reasons, I could think of in financial planning which are very well applicable on the Medical side too:

Cost of Advice:

Everyone likes things for FREE. Why pay Fee when you get the “same advice” for Free. I am sure, you agree with me that the Difference between FREE and FEE is R, which is the Risk of doing it yourself.

(Also Read: 5 Risks Doctors are exposed to and how to manage them?)

Venturing into uncharted territory with a piece of limited knowledge may prove to be fatal. Since you as a doctor are a Fee-based profession so you know the importance of genuine advice which does not come for FREE, and thus should not be afraid of paying Fees to other professionals who would help you in your financial wellness.

Fee payment when the advisor is not earning anything from product manufacturers and is well registered under the regulations, and having required qualifications removes the conflict of interest and makes sure that he/she will act as a Fiduciary.

Remember when you are not paying for something ….You are the product

No Clarity on your Requirement:

The patient always experiences some symptoms which give an Idea to the doctor on what could be the disease plus the doctor prescribes some blood or other diagnostic tests to conclude on the disease the patient has.

In Finances, most of the time you don’t even know what you want to save for. Generally, people start with the product- as in where should one invest. They don’t know why they want to invest. Sometimes the “why” part is forced upon them through marketing.

There’s a saying in Marketing- “when people don’t know what they want, make them want what you want to sell”

In financial planning, no investments or action get advised unless the issue is diagnosed. There are some goals which investors want to target with the financials, but sometimes there are hidden diseases like- debt trap, or spendthrift behavior or low yielding investment products already been invested in by the client which does not let them generate enough surplus towards the important goals.

See, it’s about your financial health which cannot just be maintained by having more money or high investment returns or more products. Good Health requires Peace of mind, and peace comes from having less but manageable, eating less but nutritious.

Medicines can only cure the illness, but to remain healthy, you need to have a disciplined and healthy lifestyle. Even your financial health expects this from you. 

(Also Read: How Doctors can do their Financial Health Check)     

Lack of Confidence, faith on Advisor:

This is also a valid concern. Mis sellers are in every profession. Because of some bad past experiences with the advisors or doctors, people lose trust in the profession and start doubting everyone.

But this does not justify your following tweets and blog articles written in general or for marketing purposes and in turn ruining your finances.

SEBI the Financial Industry regulator has taken note of this and come up with SEBI Investment advisors Regulations in 2013. And have been making the compliance strict for the advisors. All this is for the benefit of the consumers only, so they should not be misled and wrongly advised by the Registered Investment advisors.

IDIOT Syndrome & Money Management: Final Words-

Surfing on the Internet is not a bad thing, we all do that. Sometimes the purpose is to learn a new thing or to gain a different perspective, by reading different articles. But when the purpose is to verify the advice given by a professional, which is based on proper diagnosis and understanding behavior then that is like questioning the professional acumen.

(Also Read: Stress Test in personal finances)

You should read to learn more and clear doubts or even to have some more questions which you may further clear up with the professional (even many are available online too), but that can’t be substituted for a professional engagement.

How do you find the article on IDIOT Syndrome and your Money Management? Do you have any story to hear where you had experienced IDIOT Syndrome with your Patients..Do share in the comments section below.

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Manikaran Singal is the Founder and Chief Financial Planner at Dr Good Money. Manikaran is MBA Finance (Gold medalist), Certified Financial Planner and SEBI Registered Investment Adviser. Having 17+ years of extensive experience, he is managing clients across the globe. He has authored a book titled - "The Art of Being Good with Money" published by CNBC TV 18, India's Biggest Media House. He is a Regular Contributor in leading Media Houses and his articles keep getting published in different prominent business magazines and Journals. He is of the strong Opinion that Money Behaves the Way you treat it. and if you really want to get Good out of it, first you have to behave good with it.


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